Break My FallBy: M. Mabie
I stretched after stepping out of the Peterbilt, and the muscles in my neck burned. Mill work wasn’t the easiest, but it was honest, and my debt to the Griers was finally paid. It was my twelfth year in Fairview, and I finally owned a small patch of land.
Outright. Free and clear.
It was mine, and it didn’t take a board of pious trustees or a metal ring to get it. It only took hard work.
The next step was a storefront of my own in town. Soon, I wouldn’t have to piecemeal out my work, and I could sell all my furniture from one location. I’d always be there to help the Griers when they needed me, but I’d go full-time for myself.
Chris and the last trucks filed onto the lot as the others who’d arrived first that morning were already unloading. I headed their way to help. The sooner we got at least a few loads dropped, the sooner I’d finally get home after a long week of logging on the mountain.
“Abe,” Dori called from the open office window. “Hold up.” The Griers didn’t need to speak to me often. Few did really. They understood why I kept to myself, and I didn’t complain when people didn’t bother me with small talk.
A cloud of smoke followed the silver-haired woman out the door of the main building onto the covered porch outside, and she shot the butt of her cigarette into the dirt in front of the semi.
“Your mother’s been trying to reach you.”
My phone had died two days earlier, and I’d forgotten to bring a charger. Mom was the only person I still spoke with from Lancaster, but it was rare for her to call me, and I only reached out a few times a year.
“Say what she wanted?” I asked and slid my hands into worn leather gloves.
“Honey, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but your brother passed away last night.”
Ted Grier hung back in the doorway, watching. Both of their faces wore sympathy.
“Your brother passed, Abe. You should call her back. Come on in and use the phone.”
I hadn’t spoken to my brother in years, but when I left home with no plans to return, I just assumed things would stay how I left them. They’d cling to their Bibles and bands and keep living in their own warped version of reality. They’d stay tucked under the strict thumb of the Legacies and God, or at least the way they interpreted him, and I’d live my life in the woods, free of their judgment and rules.
Alone and how I liked it.
They lived how they wanted, and I did the same.
I squinted in the mid-day sun, and the tension in my neck pinched even tighter.
Ted limped to the stoop, tapped a Camel from his pack and lit it. “Son, you wanna come inside for a minute? Call your family?”
I did not. Calling them was the last thing I wanted.
It was almost noon, and I still had more than half day’s work to finish. The tobacco in the air was thick as I pulled it into my chest. “I’ll call when I get home.”
It was supposed to rain for the next four days in the hills, and there was work that needed to be done. Calling in the middle of the day wasn’t going to do anything but put me behind, and my brother would still be dead that evening.
All I could figure was everyone from my past, my family included, lived their lives by their interpretation of The Word, wanted their rings, and then planned to die and go to Heaven. That was their goal. So as much as I could conclude, they’d only be upset because Jacob had beat them to it.
Since I wasn’t a man who was burdened by those notions, I did my work, pulled my weight, and when my cell phone was charged to capacity later that evening, I turned it on and returned my mother’s call.
“Catherine, you’ve got a call,” my father announced, as if he wasn’t speaking to his only living child, but I’d expected the familiar greeting. In the Hathaway house—his house—he answered the phone unless she was there alone.
“Hello.” She sounded weary and tired, but that was also typical of our calls. Mind you, she’d chosen that life. They all had.
“Mrs. Grier told me Jacob died.”
I gave her a minute, hearing her quietly sob. If Dad was beside her, listening, I’m sure she was doing her best to hold it together.